Text: Luke 15:11-32
In this parable the Lord Jesus tells a story about a young man who wanted to live the high life, see the world and experience all that it had to offer. He was bored with home life and the everyday duties he had to perform. Maybe he even thought of his father as an old man who was out of touch with reality. Once he received his inheritance he was off to fulfil his dreams and desires. As soon as he was free from the security of his father’s house he wasted everything on wine, women and song. He had friends aplenty while money jingled in his pocket, but in no time at all his only companions were the pigs. The story illustrates the condition of the person who flees from God because he or she wants to enjoy the pleasures of sin, and it serves to warn believers against trying to serve the Lord and the world. Whatever sin has to offer us is only “husks” compared with the glories of Heaven.
What did the father give his son when he finally came to his senses and decided to return home? Most of us would list the robe, ring, shoes and fatted calf, but in doing so miss the most important thing of all. In Luke 15:20 we read, “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” The first thing the father gave his returning son was the kiss of forgiveness.
Here is a word picture that describes God as the loving Father showering His mercy on repentant sinners and backslidden saints who return from their wanderings. His forgiveness is as instantaneous as the kiss the father planted on his son’s cheek. The sinner is automatically forgiven the instant he or she sincerely comes to God in sincere repentance. Notice that though the prodigal son had rehearsed a fine speech to convince his father that he was truly sorry for all he had done (:18-19), the father in fact did not wait to hear the confession of his son before he kissed him. Yes the confession came, but not before he was welcomed back into the fold by a delighted and rejoicing father (:20-21). Can we see that forgiveness and salvation are not dependent upon our efforts but upon God’s mercy and grace? “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Let us not forget that Scripture clearly states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The first requirement for forgiveness is not forgiveness itself but a loving God who is willing to forgive us. The prodigal son returned to his father, “I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18), because he knew that his father loved him.
“God is love” (1 John 4:8). This is one of the most fundamental truths found anywhere in Scripture, yet it is the very characteristic of God that most people dismiss, ignore or are ignorant off. They blame God for all the problems in the world and even speak of Him hating them. The attribute of love is constantly before us from Genesis to Revelation, so we wonder how anyone could come to the conclusion that God does not indeed love them. One of the greatest statements describing God’s love is found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Even God cannot increase His love beyond the gift of His own Son for the salvation of the world. The sacrifice of Christ is the fullest expression of His love for us. All mankind has to do His accept His kiss of forgiveness. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). We cannot fail to note the love the father had for his son as we read the parable, “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). This reveals that he was already looking forward to and watching for his son’s return.
“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25). The good news of the Gospel of Christ is that God forgives and forgets our sin. In the parable there is no mention from the father’s lips of the terrible and sinful things his son had engaged in. His other son was there to remind him though! “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf” (Luke 15:25-30). The father refused to listen to accounts of his younger son’s past transgressions, and since the elder son had already received news of his brother’s sin, we assume the father knew of it too. “The accuser of our brethren” is not permitted to remind God of our past (Revelation 12:10), instead “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7).
God therefore does a thorough job when He forgives us, for He never does it piecemeal. When we accept His free gift of grace there is no such thing as being partly saved and partly unsaved. We are either totally saved or totally unsaved. If we truly came to Him in faith then we must believe that He completely forgave and accepted us. But what about our future sins? It is interesting to note that, according to the parable, the father did not wait to see if his returning son’s commitment would stand the test of time before he gave him the kiss of forgiveness. Would he repeat his former waywardness and go back to the world? There was no trial period, but instead the father wholeheartedly took him and in love forgave him. Whatever happened in the future was covered by the father’s love. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We must never stop believing that God’s love is just as available to us today as it has ever been, and it never diminishes. He cannot love us any more than He loved us in Christ. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). The effect of receiving the kiss of forgiveness will last throughout eternity. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).